Houston will play two tough series this week

A look at the big week ahead for the Astros

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After stumbling out to a 2-5 start, the Astros rebounded with a strong weekend performance, sweeping the A's in the weekend series to climb back up the AL West standings and get to .500 with a 5-5 record. This week, they'll have a chance to shake up the early, volatile standings even more, but it'll take as good, or better, games to come out ahead.

First, they'll stay at home for a three-game set against the Yankees, who are in a very similar spot. New York started their season 2-4 before sweeping the Orioles in Baltimore over the weekend, improving their record to 5-4 and moving them up to second in the AL East. Not only will the series be big for both teams because it's a potential playoff preview, but two of the three games will have the national spotlight with Monday and Tuesday night's games broadcast on ESPN.

Those two games will be nationally televised for good reason; Monday night we'll see the aces for both teams squaring off, with Justin Verlander on the mound for Houston and Masahiro Tanaka for New York. Then, Tuesday night we'll see Gerrit Cole go up against 24-year-old Jonathan Loaisiga. Verlander will look to improve to 2-0 on the season and rebound from his last start, a four-run four-inning outing in Arlington that luckily ended in a no-decision. Cole meanwhile will also look to improve his early-season numbers' he sits at 0-2 with a 3.00 ERA, getting little offense to back him in his two starts where he's gone six innings each and a combined 19 strikeouts.

Pitching matchups aside, these two offenses had great weekends and could easily give the pitching staffs grief with the Astros scoring 18 runs over their three-game set with Oakland and the Yankees exploding for 29 runs against Baltimore in their three games, 15 of those coming in their huge blowout on Sunday. One upside for the Astros is that the Yankees will be without Giancarlo Stanton who sits on the 10-day injured list with a bicep strain. That hasn't slowed them down at all, though, with Aaron Judge's power leading a potent lineup with great hitters like newly-signed DJ LeMahieu and young Gleyber Torres. As far as Houston's lineup, as mentioned they had a strong weekend with their top guys like George Springer, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and Carlos Correa all coming through with some consistency and big hits.

It could be even more intriguing if the Astros could get some help from the Royals earlier in the week, but regardless, after Houston wraps up the series at home with the Yankees they'll travel to Seattle to take on the first-place Mariners who have gotten out to a red-hot start. After sweeping the two-game Japan opening series with the A's, the Mariners have since taken three out of four with the defending champion Red Sox and two out of three against the White Sox. At 9-2 with a couple of extra games under their belt compared to other teams, the Mariners sit atop the league, 3.5 games ahead of Houston.

Seattle has been winning games by brute force, working their way up to a +29 run differential on the early season after taking advantage of opposing pitches in multiple games. This will set up an intriguing start to the series on Friday night when we see Wade Miley on the mound, a pitcher who typically lives on getting outs in the field on weak contact. Saturday night we'll see Brad Peacock go up against Felix Hernandez, then Sunday it'll be Justin Verlander versus Marco Gonzalez to wrap up the series.

So, with a potential ALCS-level matchup to start the week, then trying to overthrow the current AL West division leader on the road over the weekend, the Astros have a big week ahead of them. Hopefully, they can use the momentum they created in the sweep against the A's this weekend because they'll need strong offense and strong pitching to come out of the week with a winning record. Hopefully, if they can manage that winning record, they may just end the week on top of the division standings.

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After a tightly contested ALCS Game 2, the Astros were able to come out on top with a 3-2 win to even the series. Justin Verlander threw a great game while Carlos Correa came through with the walk-off homer in the bottom of the eleventh inning.

In ALCS Game 1, it was all Yankees as they overpowered Houston at the plate and on the mound en route to a shutout victory to steal a road game to start the seven-game series. Houston turned their attention to Game 2 with a fully-rested Justin Verlander on the mound to try and even the series. Here is how the game unfolded:

Final Score (11 innings): Astros 3, Yankees 2.

Series: tied 1-1.

Winning Pitcher: Josh James.

Losing Pitcher: J.A. Happ.

Astros force Paxton out early after taking early lead


Houston's offense started on the right foot on Sunday in ALCS Game 2. After stranding a runner in the bottom of the first, the Astros scored first in the bottom of the second after Alex Bregman lasered a leadoff single, moved to second on a walk to Yordan Alvarez, advanced to third on a sacrifice fly by Yuli Gurriel, then scored on an RBI-double by Carlos Correa.

The run was a significant momentum boost for Houston, who had been shutout in the Game 1 loss. Although James Paxton would get through that inning with only one run allowed, he would allow back-to-back one-out singles in the bottom of the third, which prompted the Yankees to go to their bullpen early. The moved worked, as Houston would strand both runners to send the game to the fourth.

Verlander does his part


After three perfect innings for Justin Verlander, he would watch his 1-0 lead go away in the top of the fourth. New York's first baserunner of the night came on a leadoff walk allowed by Verlander to start the inning, which turned into a two-run home run blasted by Aaron Judge to center field to put the Yankees up 2-1 to erase Houston's lead.

Those would be the only runs allowed by Verlander, who would do an impressive job of holding the Yankees down over his start. The home run would be one of the few blemishes on a night he was able to induce outs and strikeouts to keep his team in it. He would continue into the seventh inning with a pitch count over 100, but after a two-out walk would be removed to end his night. His final line: 6.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 1 HR.

Correa wins it in extras

After going down 2-1 earlier in the game, Verlander would leave in a 2-2 tie thanks to a solo home run by George Springer in the bottom of the fifth. Will Harris was first out of Houston's bullpen to finish off the seventh, getting a strikeout for the third out. Harris stayed on the mound to start the eighth, getting an out before issuing a walk to prompt AJ Hinch to bring in his closer, Roberto Osuna.

He would get two quick outs to finish the top of the eighth, but New York's bullpen would also hold in the bottom of the inning to send the gridlocked game to the ninth. In the top of the ninth, Osuna would remain in the game and record a quick 1-2-3 frame to give Houston a chance to walk it off in the bottom half. In the bottom of the ninth, a pinch-hitting Aledmys Diaz would work a two-out walk against Aroldis Chapman, giving the Astros a baserunner, but he would be left on base after a strikeout of Springer to end the inning and force extras. Joe Smith was next out of Houston's bullpen to start the top of the tenth and was able to retire the Yankees in order on seven pitches.

In the bottom of the tenth, New York turned to CC Sabathia for a rare relief appearance to face left-handed Michael Brantley, who would ground out for the first out. Jonathan Loaisiga was next out for the Yankees to try and finish the tenth. Instead, he would issue back-to-back one-out walks, resulting in another move to bring in J.A. Happ. Happ would get out of the jam with a strikeout and flyout to move the game to the eleventh.

Smith would get two quick outs in the top of the eleventh before a walk would end his night in favor of Ryan Pressly, who would allow a single, resulting in another change to Josh James, who would get the third out after a lengthy at-bat. In the bottom of the inning, Carlos Correa evened the series with a solo home run to win the game.

Up Next: With the first two games in Houston accounted for, the ALCS will now shift to the Bronx. In Game 3 at 3:08 PM on Tuesday from New York, the pitching matchup will be the electric Gerrit Cole for Houston, who is 2-0 with a 0.57 ERA and 25 strikeouts after his two ALDS starts going up against Luis Severino who went four shutout innings in his ALDS start.

The Astros playoff report is presented by APG&E.

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